There are a few key differences between postgraduate coursework and postgraduate research programs.
Postgraduate coursework programs deliver content through a set unit program (similar to an undergraduate Bachelor degree), but at a more advanced level. Coursework will allow you to deepen your knowledge within a discipline, or to pursue a new or additional study area at an advanced level.
Postgraduate degrees which can be studied through coursework include Graduate Certificates , Graduate Diplomas and Masters degrees.
Postgraduate research programs (also known as Higher Degree Research ) allow you to develop your knowledge and experience within your field by completing a major research project under the supervision of an academic .
Postgraduate research degrees which you can study include Masters by research or Doctorate ( PhD ) programs.
For a comprehensive list of courses available, please refer to the Prospective Student Catalogue , or for further information view our Postgraduate Study page.
For further information regarding postgraduate coursework programs, please contact the Future Students Team through the Contact Us tab, online Live Chat , phone to 1800 818 865, or via Facebook .
For further information regarding postgraduate research programs, please submit your enquiry to Higher Degree Research through the Contact Us tab, or phone (02) 6773 3715 for assistance.
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If you’re considering further studies, you’d probably have considered doing a Master’s course. Masters by Coursework and Masters by Research, what’s the difference?
As per their names, a Masters by Coursework involves the study of a specific set of core units and a selection of electives. It leans towards a practical application of subject knowledge. However, some of these courses will require a minor thesis to be completed as well, to supplement their knowledge in the chosen subject area. Meanwhile, a Masters by Research involves students submitting a completed thesis based on an independent research project. This means that students in this course will be working independently with the support of a supervisor and the School and attend some units to improve their research skills.
In certain countries, the Visa options available to graduates from Master’s program will differ depending on the type they chose to undertake. For example, in Australia, as a graduate from a Masters by Coursework program, a student will be entitled to apply for a post-study work Visa that is valid for two years while graduates from the Masters by Research degree can apply for a Visa valid for three years instead.
Students interested in a career in academia, have an inherent interest in research or intend to ultimately pursue a PhD are recommended to take the Masters by Research. Typically, this is most appealing to students. However, it is also an awesome opportunity for anyone who is passionate, intellectually curious and up for a challenge! Meanwhile, Masters by Coursework is more varied, some have professional applications such as work placements such as education and medicine. These allow students to develop a foundation in their undergraduate degree before applying it to real life in Masters. Others include a large research component so as to develop a student’s knowledge in a specific area.
Overall, Masters courses are aimed at enhancing undergraduate degrees and ‘focus’ students towards specific professions. One should think of whether the Masters is able to help you develop transferable skills and whether it is vital to your professional aspirations. Note though, that availability of both Master’s degree to students depends on what each individual university offers.
If you’re still unsure about whether to do Masters by Coursework or Research, simply drop us a message in the Live Chat and your personalized counsellor will be able to answer your questions.
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While most undergraduate courses are usually delivered through taught classes, Masters degrees can be either postgraduate taught programmes (PGT) or postgraduate research programmes (PGR). You may also see them referenced as PGT degrees and PGR degrees.
There’s a big contrast between these two kinds of Masters, and one type may be more suitable for your goals than the other. This page will explain the key differences between taught Masters and research Masters, and hopefully help you decide which kind of postgraduate programme is right for you.
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The difference between postgraduate taught degrees and postgraduate research degrees largely comes down to the level of independence you have during your studies.
Research Masters require students to undertake extensive research training, while postgraduate taught Masters involve a mixture of lectures, seminars and coursework.
The majority of Masters-level programmes are taught courses. They include popular degrees like the Master of Arts (MA) and Master of Science (MSc), as well as shorter Postgraduate Certificate (PGCert) and Postgraduate Diploma (PGDip) courses.
You can study these courses to acquire more advanced skills and training for a profession, or as a preparation for postgraduate research at PhD level.
Postgraduate research programmes are also available at Masters level. These include the Master of Research (MRes) and Master of Philosophy (MPhil). Some Masters qualifications, such as the Master of Letters (MLitt), can actually be taught or research degrees.
A Masters by coursework is usually professional and vocational in nature, involving a series of set modules, while a Masters by research entails the completion of a significant, independent research project. This terminology is more common in Australia .
Taught Masters do involve a substantial piece of research in its own right: the dissertation . This will be your chance to undertake an extended individual project, pursuing your own specific academic interests in a way that forms a significant part of your postgraduate course.
Your choice of PGT degree or PGR degree should depend on your career goals, academic interests and the way in which you prefer to study:
Most PhD programmes ask that applicants have any kind of Masters in an appropriate subject. So, even if you study a taught Masters degree, you’ll be eligible to take a PhD if you satisfy the various entry requirements.
Of course, if you already know that you want to study at PhD level, then it’s worth considering a research Masters if there’s one available in your subject. An MRes would be ideal preparation for PhD study, allowing you to undertake more extensive research and receive specific training in appropriate methods. Another option would be to register for an MPhil and then upgrade to a PhD .
In some cases, you can expect a research Masters to be cheaper than its taught equivalent. This is normally the case in the Humanities, where an MRes could cost less than an MA. Similarly, the yearly tuition fees for a PhD are often cheaper than a taught Masters.
Things are different in the Sciences, however: an MRes in a scientific subject usually has the same fees as an MSc degree. Both kinds of Masters typically involve extensive laboratory work.
The table below shows a summary of this data, reflecting the tendency for some research programmes to be cheaper than their taught counterparts.
* Based on the 2021-22 Reddin Survey of UK postgraduate fees , published by the Complete University Guide , as well as additional research and calculation by FindAMasters. Figures given are broad averages only and will not necessarily reflect fees for specific courses.
Essentially, the funding situation for taught and research Masters is the same. Check out our guide to Masters funding for more information on financing your course.
It’s worth noting that the UK government’s postgraduate loans are available for all Masters (including the MPhil). Standalone MPhils are not eligible for the PhD loans , but these loans are available for MPhils that are intended to become a PhD.
Ready to find your perfect Masters – taught or research? We've got thousands of courses listed on FindAMasters.
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“In preparing for your future academic degree, prospective Master’s degree students should comprehend various academic and non-academic aspects that will be experienced at the study destination, including the pathways of graduate studies.
In this article, Yogi Saputra Mahmud (Content Director for Australia, New Zealand, and Pacific Islands) will help you understand more about the differences between Master by Coursework vs. Master by Research, as well as some advice to select a pathway of graduate studies.”
Before starting your initial journey as a master’s degree student overseas, it is essential to explore the programs you wish to take. University websites will always become the best source of information for you to examine the desired courses. For instance, before I decided to pursue a Master’s degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) , I started my investigation by visiting several university websites all over the globe. Ultimately, I chose Monash University as my study destination as it offers a very unique course pathway that supported my future career.
At Monash University, I also experienced working as a Student Engagement Officer who helped students in their course progression. At that time, I realised that different universities might have different types of graduate studies offered to prospective students. Some Master degree programs are specifically designed for a full-coursework, a full-research, and coursework with a partial research pathway during the study, which will be exemplified further below.
Master by Coursework
On its website, Edith Cowan University outlines that A Masters by Coursework “is a professional qualification involving the study of a specified set of core units and a selection of eligible elective units” ( ECU, 2019 ). In other words, Master by Coursework students are required to enrol in classes that belong to compulsory units and choose several elective units for a certain number of credit hours throughout their study. During the study, you are also expected to complete assignments/projects/exams specified in each class or unit.
An example of Masters by Full Coursework pathway that I will illustrate here is Master of Business at Monash University . As an industry-focused graduate program, Master of Business enormously creates a professionally developed and socially responsible business practitioner. Therefore, the full coursework type allows you to immerse yourself in practical understanding to become an effective business practitioner.
As shown in the picture above, a Master of Business course requires its students to complete 96 credit points consisting of three major parts, including Advanced Preparatory, Mastery Knowledge, and Application Studies. Students will have to take core units and some elective units based on their interests in each part. In my perspective, the full coursework type will allow students to scrutinise theoretical and practical understandings in a particular field. Furthermore, it also enables students to tailor their expertise in their area based on their selection of core and elective units throughout their academic journey.
Master by Coursework + Partial Research
Besides the full coursework pathway, some Master’s degree programs also offer a partial research stream as an alternative pathway in the Masters by Coursework program. Usually, the partial research stream requires the students to complete a minor thesis comprising less than 15,000 words.
There are several requirements that you must fulfil to take this pathway. For instance, I personally took this pathway when I was studying at Monash University. Regarding this, the Master of TESOL course offers a Master by Coursework for prospective students. However, this course also has an alternative research pathway for those who achieve satisfactory results (75 of 100) from the first to the third semester. Since other courses may have different requirements, you are advised to check the university website or the course handbook to investigate them further.
As can be identified in the picture below, Master of TESOL at Monash University offers either a Master of Full Coursework or Master of Coursework + a partial research pathway. I believe that both types provide different advantages for prospective students. In this case, students who prefer a Master of Full Coursework type will have a more comprehensive experience in teaching and other professional development programs. Similarly, those who select a partial research pathway will improve their research experience and capacity, which can become an essential milestone for their future academic trajectory at Ph.D.
Master by Research
In a Master by Research program, students are required to submit “a completed thesis based on an independent research project” ( ECU, 2019 ). Furthermore, students will engage with a research supervisor throughout the completion of their research project. In this graduate study type, students will not have to attend any course units (core or elective units). However, there might be some preliminary classes to support their understanding of their research project, including classes in research methodology and statistics. Therefore, it is essential to explore the course progression and requirement in the university website or course handbook.
An example that I will illustrate here is the Master of Engineering Science (Research) at Monash University. This course is offered with two years and four years duration for full-time and part-time study respectively. Regarding this, students have to complete a research project in the areas of chemical engineering, civil engineering, electrical and computer systems, materials, and mechanical engineering. In each area of research, students will also be able to explore several subthemes that they are interested in. Ultimately, students are required to submit a thesis of not more than 50,000 words to complete their Master by Research degree.
In the other Master by Research courses, students will also find areas of research that can be selected as the theme of your research project. In addition, communication between yourself as the prospective student and a prospective supervisor is also necessary to ensure that the suitability of the research project, as well as the approval from the prospective supervisor to supervise you throughout the academic program. You can find the list of prospective supervisors by entering the following keyword in the Google search box: “find a supervisor + University name + Faculty/Department name.”
Which One to Choose?
As stated earlier, each type of graduate studies has its particular characteristics. In this regard, Masters by Full Coursework pathway allow you to deepen theoretical and practical insights about a specific area of knowledge. For instance, a Master by Full Coursework pathway at Master of TESOL course allows the students to immerse in teaching and classroom supervision, further supporting the key developments of becoming an effective teacher after completing the study. In other words, a Master by Full Coursework pathway is suitable for those who are planning to have a future career as a professional/expert in a particular field (e.g., business practitioner, education practitioner, and many more).
However, some Masters by Full Coursework pathway also offers a partial research pathway for those planning to extend their understanding of research. The partial research along with Masters by Full Research pathways are essential for students who would like to pursue a Doctoral degree since most Ph.D. programs require their applicants to have prior experience in completing a substantial amount of research in the form of a Master’s thesis. Furthermore, those who intend to become researchers, analysts, and university lecturers will also benefit from taking these pathways since the professions require them to engage in rigorous research and other academic projects.
It is important for you to explore the available pathways in the Master’s degree course that you desire. Every pathway at the graduate level has its own characteristics and strengths that ultimately affect your overall academic trajectory. Moreover, selecting a particular Master’s degree pathway should be based on the future career that you want to have.
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Postgraduate coursework programs have a set study plan structure. Students are required to complete all required assignments or assessments to pass the units on their study plans. Postgraduate research qualifications are awarded following the completion of a major thesis, involving independent original research under the supervision of a senior academic.
Tl;dr: The main difference between these two styles is coursework has classes and research has a thesis. Postgraduate coursework: advanced
What is the difference between postgraduate coursework and postgraduate research programs? · Postgraduate Coursework. Postgraduate coursework programs deliver
For more information, please see our Postgraduate Study at ECU web page. A Masters by Research involves the submission of a completed thesis
Course-based Masters Degrees are based on course modules taught through lectures, lab work, seminars or distance learning, while research-based Masters Degrees
Postgraduate Coursework. Postgraduate coursework programs deliver content through a set unit program (similar to an undergraduate Bachelor degree), but at a
It depends on the individual's needs and goals. A Masters by Coursework is suitable for those who wish to gain professional qualifications and skills, while a
However, some of these courses will require a minor thesis to be completed as well, to supplement their knowledge in the chosen subject area. Meanwhile, a
A Masters by coursework is usually professional and vocational in nature, involving a series of set modules, while a Masters by research entails
In my perspective, the full coursework type will allow students to scrutinise theoretical and practical understandings in a particular field.
Postgraduate coursework programs have a set study plan structure. Students are required to complete all required assignments or assessments to